So, this post is about a week overdue so let's see what I can do.
Last weekend (the 12th through the 15th), I went to cycling camp in the Black Forest, Pennsylvania. This camp is run by my former coach Pete Gladden. While Pete is not my coach this year, it has nothing to do with his coaching, just my lack of a tangible goal for which I need a coach. I think he is awesome, and he proved that over and over again during camp.
Anyway, this camp promised to provide challenging climbing with a lot of time on the bike with tired legs. As he said, if we wanted to ride flat, we would go to Nebraska. I was intimidated when I saw the other people who were there, and I was more intimidated when I saw the mountains that surrounded our lodge.
We stayed at a very nice little lodge called Hotel Manor in Slate Run, Pennsylvania. Hotel Manor makes the bulk of its money from trout fishermen, but was a great base for camp. While the rooms were much nicer than I expected, they weren't exactly what I would call "private." Trout fishermen must have no secrets as I had an adjoining room with the only married couple in our group and while the door always stayed closed and locked, I could hear every word they said. Fearing that I would possibly hear more than I wanted and not wanting to violate their privacy, I spent nearly every waking minute and most of my sleeping ones with headphones in my ears. Just as an FYI, I would not book this place for a romantic getaway if you know what I mean...
But, Friday's morning we started the ride at 10AM. While others complained it was still cold, it was sunny and over 40 degrees so I just rolled my eyes and appreciated being able to ride my bike all day rather than be in an office building staring at an excel spreadsheet.
The ride started off well with just a beautiful gently rolling road for about 50 minutes or so. We all stopped and stripped clothing then started back going again. Right away, a couple of people had fallen off the back (OTB) from the main group. Seeing the pace of the main group, I decided to drop back and save myself for the rest of the weekend. Someone else noticed my pace and opted to join me rather than kill himself in the first "flat" 40 miles of the day's ride. He and I were riding well together and were then joined by Pete who helped pull us for about an hour. This second road wasn't flat, but it was considered the easy part of the ride as it had some nice short power climbs to keep us honest. Pete would occasionally yell at me for mashing my pedals and really pushed me to use the appropriate gear. (For non-cyclists, mashing usually involves climbing in a big gear with a low cadence, muscling your way up a hill). Once we made the next turn, I kind of wanted to pull a Johnny Clay. Now, Johnny Clay is just an awesome member of the Long Distance riding group that I ride with from Berea. Typically, he is OTB, but he is proactive about it. He almost always leaves ahead of everyone so he can get a headstart on the group then doesn't stop at the stops but rides by to let us know it's time to chase him down again. All weekend, I wanted to be like Johnny Clay. From this second stop, things stopped being flat.
The first climb was up to a town called Lock Haven, and while it wasn't steep, it was an annoyingly long false flat. I wouldn't have known I was climbing except that I was going pretty slowly, but was still within eyeshot of the main group for quite a while. Once we got to Lock Haven, I decided that a couple of hours was long enough to go without really eating, so I mauled down a PB&J sandwich. While standing there, this local said, "oh, you are going to climb that mountain, huh? Good luck." Those words had a sense of foreboding as I made my turn down the road by myself. I started the climb and started to think it wasn't so bad yet, which made me nervous because people don't wish you luck while riding up a baby hill...and then I saw it: my first switchback. Now, I started going and just kept riding. I was riding in some pretty easy gears and yes, even my granny gear! I don't know what it is, but everytime I drop into granny, I have to tell myself, "don't be a hero, it's okay." Well, granny and I were "not heros" often during the weekend...I just wanted to make it up the hill without falling over. As I got up what I thought was about two-thirds of the way up this climb, an old lady came out to get her mail and said to me, "this is a pretty big hill, isn't it?" To which I responded, "Yes, yes it is." After about 5 miles, I saw Pete video taping in the middle of the road and said to him some rather infamous words from the weekend, "F*** this Pete, this hill is b***s***!" Little did I know that Pete was not standing on the top of the hill, but no, basically the middle of a road that would proceed to ride the ridge of this particular mountain for another 5 miles. WTF, 10 miles of climbing! While I know that I was climbing better than some of the people to whom I caught up, I had granny to thank and a bad attitude starting to form. When we finally got to the top, I didn't want to wait for others and started my way down the 5 mile descent. Sounds awesome, yes, but Miss Attitude was approaching a state of bonking "Get me off the bike now!" that is usually only reserved for much more extreme circumstances. After the descent, it was another 15 miles of rollers back to the hotel and rollers with a nice 10-15mph headwind! While with Miss Attitude it tow, I finally made it back to the hotel and finished the ride nowing that Day 2 promised to be even tougher.